Orangutan EMeijaard editedA first population trend analysis of Critically Endangered Bornean orangutans reveals that despite decades of conservation work, the species is declining rapidly - at a rate of 25 per cent over the past 10 years.

CEED researcher Dr Truly Santika, an Indonesian statistician, led the study. The research team also included CEED Director Professor Kerrie Wilson, and associate Dr Jessie Wells.

The analyses show that declines are particularly pronounced in West and Central Kalimantan, but even in relatively well protected areas, such as the Malaysian State of Sabah, the rate of decline is still 21.3 per cent.

Every year some USD$30-40 million is invested by governmental and non-governmental organisations to halt the decline of wild populations. The study shows that these funds are not effectively spent.

Dr Santika said for many threatened species, the rate and drivers of population decline were difficult to assess accurately.

“Our study used advanced modelling techniques that allowed the combination of different survey methods, including helicopter surveys, traditional ground surveys, and interviews with local communities,” she said. Professor Kerrie Wilson said: “This new approach facilitated the break-through and for the first time, enable researchers to determine the population trends of the species over time.”

She said the study, conducted by a group of some 50 Indonesian, Malaysian, and international researchers, was a wake-up call for the orangutan conservation community and the Indonesian and Malaysian governments who had committed to saving the species. 

Ultimately, viable populations of large roaming animals such as the orangutan require a solid network of protected forests that are properly managed, and sustainable practices outside of these protected areas.

The new study is published in Nature Scientific Reports (DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-04435-9).

Read the full journal article HERE.

Read more about the research HERE.